Doc's patience is being tried by knucklehead members of the Coalition of the Damned. Mine too.
Their new prophet of rage, Tony Muhammad, blasted cops for not raising the dead. Well actually, that's not the whole truth, he blasted firemen for not raising the dead. Well, that's not the whole truth either, because Tony Muhammad wanted to raise a ruckus at the funeral of the dead homie in question as an opportunity to get in cops' faces. That's more like it. And so when he and his bodyguards (why do you bring bodyguards to a funeral? ) didn't disperse at the order of the police the conversation went south.
How did this all start? Hell it never finished. The Nation of Islam regularly spins off Somebody Muhammads (I think the PC term is 'radical cleric') who incite poor, helpless and ignorant people aka the Coalition of the Damned, who have decided that their entire entree into the political arena is all about shouting in public meetings about how the LAPD is genocidal. They lurk in the bushes and wait for any situation that can escalate into the tired old stereotypes. NOI loudmouths is a tired old stereotype. Thuglike cops is a tired old stereotype. But this time it started because of a gang murder. That may be a stereotype too, but it is what actually happened. And the banger who was twitching on the sidewalk with half of his brains in the street was pronounced dead by paramedics. The neighborhood shouted to use CPR on the twitching body while the cops told them to back off.
And so the invitation went out to Tony Muhammad to be the voice of... the voice of what? So that when it came time for the dead banger's funeral, lots of people could be counted on to show up, most importantly perhaps, the reporters for the LA Times who made sure that the murder that precipitated police presence in the first place was mentioned about 8 paragraphs down the page.
So I've got to hear all this from my mother yesterday with all the shit that's going down in New Orleans. Doc had to do crowd control at the hearing and people were getting all in his face. What hearing? Oh, the hearing that our new mayor called so that every possible word against the LAPD can be heard. The room sits 70, about three times that showed up. Now this is where I put the beatdown down several paragraphs in the page.
When, at the funeral for the dead banger, our radical cleric was ordered to stop following police officers he uttered the taunt which is the title of this blog article. He got beat down by the cops. I suppose that was provocation enough but there are official charges assault against the minister.
I'm rather stressed out at the moment, but I feel the need to say things in the face of the people who get in my brother's face. All I can do is shout at the walls right now. I may as well, because that's probably all the satisfaction I'm going to get.
You may well note that the bosses of Tony Muhammad have no comment at this time.
Doc has gotten the ear of Chief Bratton who is asking for input from folks here in LA about what they think about this situation. So from your keyboard to the Chief's ears. Doc says their is a silent majority of blackfolks that is sick and tired of these radical clerics. I say, stop being silent, because the knuckleheads are drowning you out.
Not that I expect anybody who spews off about the LAPD to actually check out their side of the story, so I've gathered this from their site which illustrates their 'genocidal' programs and goals.
This is from the neighborhood I grew up in, and these are the crime stats:
To reduce crime and traffic collisions, to provide the highest standard of law enforcement service, and to improve the quality of life in Southwest Area for those we serve and our employees. We will do this in partnership with the community.
The Southwest Area Management Team worked to develop a work plan and set realistic goals for the Southwest Area. We believe this plan will help us to achieve our goals. By providing our personnel with annually established goals and objectives to achieve, we feel we ensure our contribution to Community Based Policing and quality service to the community. The Management Team developed the following goals:
* Reduce crime by five percent,
* Reduce serious and fatal traffic collisions by five percent,
* Reduce personnel complaints by five percent,
* Increase the clearance rate for violent crimes by 10 %,
* Reduce the detectives’ backlog to less than 150 cases,
* Increase the detectives’ participation with the community, and;
* Implement the department’s new mission statement.
Here's the scoop. Since we've all been watching the MSM for video images and photos and breaking news, we've all been subject to a deluge of cliches. And in America, what could be more cliche'd than age old racial stereotypes? In case you haven't felt the tug at the primative heartstrings, looters have made the video clips. The looters are black. Survivors have made the video clips. Surviors are white.
But here's a particularly poignant observation straight from the blogosphere:
Our biggest adventure today was raiding the Walgreens on Canal under police escort. The pharmacy was dark and full of water. We basically scooped the entire drug sets into garbage bags and removed them. All under police excort. The looters had to be held back at gunpoint. After a dose of prophylactic Cipro I hope to be fine.
In all we are faring well. We have set up a hospital in the the French Qarter bar in the hotel, and will start admitting patients today. Many will be from the hotel, but many will not. We are anticipating dealing with multiple medical problems, medications and and acute injuries. Infection and perhaps even cholera are anticipated major problems. Food and water shortages are imminent.
The biggest question to all of us is where is the National Guard. We hear jet fignters and helicopters, but no real armed presence, and hence the rampant looting. There is no Red Cross and no Salvation Army.
If somebody steals a crate of DVDs from WalMart in the wake of a hurricane, not only are they stupid but they are unambitious. If somebody steals a baker's rack of groceries, that's not stealing, that's forethought. If somebody steals a syringe of insulin, that's not stealing, that's self-reliance.
So the question arises, forgetting race for a moment, as to how one goes about getting a police escort for your particular needs during an emergency. Obviously, if you are a doctor, as the author appears to be, you might get lucky and convince a cop to help you fetch some drugs from the local Walgreens under armed guard. Everybody doesn't have it goin' on like that, and clearly the expectations of what heroics might be acceptable from the lower classes hasn't changed in this emergency. At least, that's what the pictures on Channel 4 suggest.
But let's not mince words. New Orleans is a black vs white town. I was there this spring and all over the news was how clubs in the Quarter were getting sued for racial profiling. In addition to that, there is the kind of black poverty in New Orleans that defies cvility. It's very easy to take a wrong turn off the avenue and wind up in the third world, and everybody knows it. I'm talking dirt streets and standing water in the middle of the summer. There is a not-insignificant portion of New Orleans that a lot of people are glad to see washed into oblivion. But the people who lived there are now souls to be saved. Not everybody is willing to be charitable. Considering that disaster tends to bring out the best in people, what we haven't seen is the daily ugliness of racial New Orleans.
I'm not one to whine or complain about the daily abuses of Class Three Racism that dogs blackfolks and others across our nation, but I am particularly attuned to what goes on when there are soldiers with automatic weapons in the streets. For shame!
People are talking:
I have been on the phone with my mother on and off since about 4pm this afternoon, and we have been able to confirm that my aunt and cousin are OK. Right now they are Gonzales which is about halfway to Baton Rouge. I'm sure that I'll have stories, but for now I'm just glad that they're OK.
Here are a couple of overhead visuals of the neighborhood that looks like it has been sunken due to two breaches of the levee in the Industrial Canal. It's being reported as the Florida Street levee, but on Google Earth the road is marked as Surekote. It sounds like name of an industrial company, and that surely is the Industrial Canal that goes up to Ponchartrain from the Mississippi.
In this first picture looking south towards the Mississippi, you can clearly see how the levee has been broken in two places. The closest one looks to have about a 250 feet gap. Further south near the bridge the gap has got to be at least 350 feet long.
Now here's the reverse angle looking north from south of the bridge over to the gaps on the east.
Here, you can see that everything to the right of the channel is threatened. That's a pretty large area, and it looks like it will be underwater for a long time.
It's difficult to imagine how bad the flooding is in New Orleans until you see some of the aerial photos. Yesterday, I was pretty confident that the people I know there were OK. Today I'm not so sure, but I know more.
The levee that broke, from what I can tell, is on the north side of the city right on Lake Pontchartrain where you see the yellow arrow. This break is causing the lake to drain into the city.
My understanding is that the flood has moved all the way down south towards downtown from the lake and it has flowed east over to City Park which is bordered on the West by another canal whose levees have held up.
Police officers, firefighters and private citizens, hampered by a lack of even rudimentary communication capabilities, continued a desperate and impromptu boat-borne rescue operation across Lakeview well after dark. Coast Guard helicopters with searchlights criss-crossed the skies. Officers working on the scene said virtually every home and business between the 17th Street Canal and the Marconi Canal, and between Robert E. Lee Boulevard and City Park Avenue, had water in it. Nobody had confirmed any fatalities as a result of the levee breach, but they conceded that hundreds of homes had not been checked.
That's a huge area. By my calculations 3.6 square miles. 2300 acres underwater. For you football fans, 1 acre = 1 football field.
I have an uncle's house on Dumain, just below and to the right of the orange zone off City Park Avenue, but that's just an artificial barrier. I know he went and holed up with an aunt of mine just south east of City Park off Esplanade. I can't recall how big the berms are on that canal that you can clearly see at the bottom right of the park, but that's where a number of historic homes are located.
Either way that's a hell of a lot of people underwater because of a failure indirectly related to the storm itself. I can't tell if it was the surge from the lake that broke the levee or if the wind did it, but the results are catastrophic. When I hear more, I'll post more.
In what has come to be a classic example of intellectual property rights vs the public's right to know, there's good news and bad news.
The good news is that some thoughtful and resourceful people have put up some of the cash necessary to chop through the warren of proprietary fetters on the Eyes on the Prize documentary series. According to this story, The Ford Foundation and Richard Gilder have come to the rescue.
The bad news is that none other than the music industry is tying up this process with their expensive products.
When the controvery over the Downhill distribution arose, I first sided with the free distributors. Shortly thereafter, I changed my mind. Apparently the right words were whispered in the right ears and those who can, did. Or at least it seems that they have. Who knows what the ultimate price tag on this matter may be? But it's clear that at the moment the day has been saved.
Ahh.. the joys of fatherhood.
I've checked out two of the winners of last night's award ceremonies. I'm not so sure who produces the 'VMAs', but I gather it's MTV Networks, that tremendously successful American multibillion dollar corporation. I put it that way because although they are peddlers of a sort, what they are selling is the culture between cultures. For us in the West, MTV and Hollywood provide a very valuable service, if only we know how to appreciate it.
Green Day's winning entry 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' is a very good piece of the truth. Watching the protagonist walk through poses of anomie, every word of his lyrics rung true:
I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone
I walk this empty street
On the boulevard of broken dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I'm the only one and I walk alone
I walk alone I walk alone
I walk alone I walk a-
My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
'Till then I walk alone
Except that his band members are walking with him, it's actually a video, and last night confirms that it's the most popular video of all. How does one balance this contradiction? A generation ago, another great poseur of our age, Sting, sung about loneliness. In the resolution we found:
Walked out this morning
Don't believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles
Washed up on the shore
Seems I'm not alone at being alone
A hundred billion casatways
Looking for a home
I've walked down Hollywood Boulevard in the wee hours of the morning feeling as alone as anyone possibly can. And I've looked at the torn pages of my little black book and narrowed the hundred names to seven and counted the reasons I am forever bound and yet lost to them. I have heaved the shudder with my back against the dumpster and watch the tears drop on my silk sweater. We all have. That's the point.
At some moment, it becomes clear, that we are all alone in this world together. But until you reach that moment of clarity, you are a danger to yourself and to others. Without the realization that your pain is the same, you black your own eyes, you muss your own hair. If you're an American man, you become an icon of yourself and you see yourself in the haggard faces of every video star. You keep it real.
The 'real' of MTV Networks, that hugely successful multibillion dollar American corporation, is the image of despair. The kind of world-weary pose of knowing it's all shit, and here I am a survivor, won't somebody send me somebody to love. It's done in every flavor, for every MTV sub-demographic. One of my favorite music groups, The Gorillaz, have done it in animated form. They won the other award - but the snagga-tooth alienation is there too, drenched in irony of 'Feel Good Inc.' That's who MTV is, Feel Good Inc, but only if you know how to properly use their product.
As I said, the product, has the bite of truth, and the truth is that the world can be a hideously destructive place. And people who walk those cold streets (me and you) grow souls that are as large as the stage of the Video Music Awards, and though they mumble and stumble, the 'real' that they know imprints itself on their hearts. But everybody gets that. Because everybody gets it, MTV gets rich selling it to everybody who thinks their pity party is the only one happening. But it's not. Everybody who watches this stuff on the regular is crying into their meth stash as well. The whole world is lonely, ugly, soulful, real. Everybody knows that things fall apart.
So how do babies get made?
Babies get made by accident for people who starve themselves so they can look 'real'. Men who hide under hoodies with their eyes like Jawas, women who pierce and tattoo themselves numb. They despair of the prospect of 'bringing a baby into this world' because they've only lived in the selfish part of the real. They've only lived in the self-pitying pain of it all. They haven't realized that us is all we've got and in that world where things fall apart on the regular and those who keep it together. And we go back to the Premature Autopsies:
But there is another truth and that truth passes through time in the very same way an irresistible force passes through an immovable object. That’s what I said: this truth is so irresistible that it passes through immoveable objects. It is the truth of a desire for a refined and impassioned portrait of the presence and the power and the possibilities of the human spirit.
That's the part where you throw your hands in the air and wave them like you actually care. Where you tell people don't shoot up the place because there's somebody here tonight who should be having your baby, baby. And inside of all that pain and suffering of a world constantly falling apart, and not in spite of, but because of your knowledge of all that, you wash your face extra clean and do everything to bring joy and honor and dignity and love.
You're not likely to see, anytime soon, any product sold by MTV Networks, that powerful and influential massive media conglomerate, that celebrates joy and honor and dignity and love. They can't sell that. The reason is because only human beings can generate that stuff and since we do it out of our souls, it's free, and no substitute can equal it. You cannot sell the joy spring - it's buried deep in the soul. You can sell tickets to a party and hope people infuse it with the right spirit but that's up to chance. What you can sell for sure are visions of despair.
When you recognize the power and the possibilities of the human spirit, you're ready to have babies. If you're still wallowing on the boulevard of broken dreams, stay away from mine. But if you're living on the dark side and you have an accident, try to keep in mind that life itself is the only miracle. You are not alone.
The chances that any of my relatives in New Orleans are thinking about reading my blog today is very, very slim. However, on that slim possibility, they just might.
Let us know you're OK. OK?
I don't really need any new information about the War in Iraq. As I've said any number of times, we're in it to win it and I'm not panicky over how long we stay. It's basically US bases in Iraq keeping a lid on the Middle East, or nuts like Netanyahu, who by the way is nuclear in case anybody forgot. So while it's really pitiful how GWBush has completely botched the opportunity to create War TV, I have to depend on Hollywood and blogs. Blogs may have a much higher reality ratio, but the TV is damned convenient.
I watch Bochco's version, sometimes with a bit of nausea, on the regular and have realized that it's the closest thing I have to any verisimilitude on Iraq. I put up with its melodrama in order to place my head into the context of the skirmishes units are probably engaged in. There are no photojournalists worth a damn in America any longer. If Dan Rather was the best we had, it's because of the whole culture of the punk kids we send to J-School.
Standing in stark contradiction to the puff-blonde tradition of American news is Michael Yon. Remember his name and blog about him yourself. His blog, which I catch maybe once every two weeks, is by far the most down and dirty, grit eyeball view of troop actions. It's simply True. It's easy to say that Hollywood is Hollywood, but until you read Yon, you have no idea how bogus it might be.
Yon is getting his props in the 'sphere, but I wonder how long we have to accept that his name is not household knowledge like that of Cindy Sheehan. I'm not satisfied that we have to cynically take this problem with truth as just another bit of evidence of the dance of the MSM swirling around the drain. I feel shame, plain and simple. We can do better, and we need to.
M11 gets back from his summer vacation today. He'll be flying into LAX when he comes. But his coming was delayed by a rather untraceable fact which was that at least one terminal was evacuated this morning at JFK. His flight was delayed almost 3 hours.
I got the cell phone call and talked to him, so I found out in rapid succession that there was a bomb threat and that he wasn't scared. So I went online immediately to find out what I could. I found nothing. Homeland Security said nothing. The NYTimes said nothing. The AA.com site said nothing. The Port Authority of NY & NJ said nothing. The FAA said nothing. I guess they're supposed to say nothing.
So the Spousal Unit and I had a discussion about who should say what and when. We concluded that knowing is better than not knowing, sorta.
I am dragging myself kicking and screaming into the next generation of online publishing with the VisionCircleWiki. The idea is to develop, organically via all the black people on the web who care, a collaborative statement about who we are and where we stand on the issues.
I've been complaining a lot about P6's format in that it's very difficult to navigate and get a sense of where people stand concisely on the issues. I've always seen the blogosphere as a good place to rant, but it's not good at summarization. I think it would be more useful at this point in time to get a kind of full encyclopedia of our political and cultural landscape than to carry out 100 battles and trackbacks. Once I get the flavor of the Wiki, I can go do the portal thing - plus the RSS aggregation and then we are off, boyeee.
So for now consider this an open invitation, left right and center, Old School, New Jacks and yo' momanem, to get jiggy in coming up with some general agreement on the terminology of our age over at the VisionCircleWiki.
..and though hunted, never lacking praise
for wending sidelong shuffle gaze
or bitter blasts in justice' gaping lack
in substituted manhood being black
despair is common in these neighbors' eyes
i know the sidewalk cracks and hearing lies
avoid the speech and wish on borrowed time
a windy isle or subtle smile sublime
(from the archives - my first nightmare about September 11)
My First Nightmare.
I was at the ground floor of Ground Zero dodging bodies. Nothing moved in slow motion, instead it was a grisly example of cartoon physics. The people plunging towards me were warning me to get out of the way knowing themselves doomed. But no matter how fast I ran, no matter which way I dodged, there was yet another bound to hit me. I kept escaping narrowly as they slammed into the concrete just inches away from me. As soon as they hit with a sickening crunch, broken in their business wear another scream from above would alert me to look up and start running again. Nobody fell straight. I watched in horror as their wildly waving and sometimes broken limbs caught the wind and changed their direction. The women’s hair seemed to fan out wildly; I could see their necklaces whipping. They stared into my eyes as they fell or turned over backwards to avoid my stares. Then glass fell, then shoes. It was a ghastly, heavy rain.
(from the archives, September 1999)
i've been thinking a little bit lately about my ability to cash in on the silicon valley thing, and having read a bit of correspondance between nora ephron and some other literate chap, kurt somebody of the new yorker, over in slate it occurs to me that i'd better make hay. people like me are not supposed to get rich, or even wealthy. if the fashion turns against conspicuous spending, all started by the wall street boom way back when, i'm going to be boxed out. these days, it's ok to be rich and black. soon 'we' may all look back on puff daddy and ask, what were we thinking?
i say we in quotes because i've pretty much made up my mind that no matter how ugly i have to be, socially speaking, i'm going to get my goddamn share. i'll be the george jefferson of the 00s by gum, and i don't care who knows it. i'm moving on up, larry ellison style if need be. some of us may laugh at puff daddy like our laughter means something, but i hope to get up above all that, hopefully with better financial sense than hammer. i don't laugh at puffy. puffy's over the hump.
i reckon, that and a few other character flaws will be sufficient for a number of people to judge me by the angle of my nose, especially if i do the right thing by bringing along some of those young men and women who believed in me - who just so happen to look as if they vaguely resemble me in that caste called race. i don't know how it happened that people who know how to cha cha to marvin gaye's 'give it up' groove with my soul, but it's like that. and considering the size of my hometown, it's still a bit surprising to me that there are so few who know *exactly* what i'm saying. yeaah, you remember the dj at moody's? yeah, but do you remember the second floor of dillon's? i catch a big butt and a smile at starbucks la tijera over in ladera heights and the groove is immediately rekindled. magic, that bond. i'm not going to resist it. i've been fourth man on enough golf foursomes to know every club ain't clubby. i'm taking my homies on the ride.
but i know there's some paranoia in there. i'm not too stupid or ugly not to know how to make new friends. i just often wonder how many 'its' i don't get - things perfectly obvious to those up there somewhere who get invited to write for slate magazine. i don't have enough time to read all the articles; i can't reinsert myself into gary trudeau's yale class and remember what kind of guy g.w. bush actually was - back when he presumeably spoke his mind. i don't get to sleep with jane pauley. (and i think about how miserable it must be to be bryant gumbel, arguably the finest interviewer alive on the planet, yet for some reason untouchable by the networks, languishing on cable. what? is he too difficult to work with? did he ask for too much money? did he object to matt lauer's sex appeal? what?) i don't want to end up that way. like gregory hines. like debbie allen. like so many incredible talents left out there without a corporation behind them. like arsenio hall. i've got to find a balance so that when my time expires, i won't expire too.
there's this window i'll have to make money in front of whatever section of the american public recognizes me. it will expire. not like pierce brosnan. pierce has love handles, but he's got something permanent. not like sean connery. sean doesn't even have a proper english gentleman's accent, but he's got something permanent. it's the uberroth factor. any day he can step out and be somebody again. i've just got a short window to dance in. i've got tighter scrutiny. i'm probably foolish just being a human being about it honestly here. some phonies are more equal than others.
i've got to cash in on this silicon valley thing. i'd feel stupid if i didn't. some people don't want to be ugly grubby and unfashionably rich. i don't mind. i won't feel guilty about it. i'm like the biafran refugee in this. more is ok for me, i promise not to be embarrassed. i'm not likely to go off wife-swapping or pretending that sailboat racing is a true test of character. i just don't want to miss my window. i've got to get over the hump. i've got to get over the hump.
[from the archives - circa 1985, a letter to my theatre arts teacher]
context - my drama teacher told us that we should pick a scene for our final, but not anything from tennessee williams, pinter, arthur miller or ibsen because the themes were too complex. i said out loud that was rediculous, snorted and walked out of the class. i only showed up 3 or 4 times in the second half of the semester after i picked my scene and was paired with a partner.
Success has many forms.
In the matter of my elementary theater class it appears as though i will receive a less than honorable mark. This is clear to mea and i understand the justification. Pith this is not an acting course or perhaps one in the study of drama. By your own admission, it doesn't work. Nevertheless, there exists an organized course of study - outlined in the syllabus for all to see and follow. Then there is Mr. Bowen...
I'm certain that you don't take my attitude about the class as a personal affront, yet I recognize you as the actor - completely aware and somewhat put off during our terse exchanges. It is my failure that it is so difficult for me to shed my aggressive intellectual hat for such a general and elementary course. It is my failure that I discount attendance simply because I understand the general direction of the discussions and tend to learn very quickly. I'd rather be absent than rudely studying some other material in class. Yet these fundamental differences and the others that keep me from truly pursuing the top grad in the class are best left in a clarifying afterthought rather than a qualifying preface. It is for that reason that you should not receive this letter until the end of the semester.
I recognized this difficulty last week when I requested to take the midterm at a rescheduled time. It was all there, we tried to act anonymously, but I knew you recognize me and I your attitude towards the dissident. It is nothing fabulously new - many times persons are opposites on issues. I must face you and your class but then I must face myself.
Even in this letter there should not be room for criticism. It is not my responsibility to teach you to teach or to reshape your course or style. I have only the scantron of evaluations as that forum. Yet I must tell you how frustrated I have been to attempt to show my own dramatic ability within the context of this class. That I know I am capable yet have no chance to show how I am, is the conflict that did keep me enrolled. In short I felt that for me to be able to show myself acting (or anyone with real abilities) is beyond the scope of Theatre 111. But I had to be there. Attendance is not drama. This you know. Talent is not manifest in "putting childish qualities into the scene". It didn't work for me. Further, I don't believe it works at all. Further, I believe you know that it doesn't. Yet it’s in the syllabus in essence. I write this having a gut feeling that you are above this babysitting.
My only chance then, is my scene. My five minutes. A shared five minutes actually. My choice of roles is limited as is my choice of partners. I must consider the audience, the availability of props, the absence of time for exposition. Yet whatever I do – this letter is my subtext. I recognize the futility with a smile, for you indeed will see me as the dissident.
So, the irony of my selection comes out. I am Felix Unger. I must play absolutely pristine, neurotically so, simply to prove something basic about myself. In a comedy yet. In a failing situation that goes for laughs. Unrecognized pathos.
Does Oscar know what good a man Felix really is as they play neatness games? The subtext there is marriage and the strategies are blurred by Simon’s characterizations so that the audience may laugh at itself. The tactics are cigarette butts, linguini, poker and slang. All comedic. Not comic but comedic; not actually funny but played for laughs.
And so the analogy is complete, I play for your, for the class for a grade on the surface. Yet the conflict is between myself and the form. Is this the intellectual vehicle of choice? Is this class, this semester at this school in front of these people what I am? Certainly not! But even for drama is it accurately testing me? Sadly not. I’ll barely pass. I’ll learn the terms, the technicalities but the spirit does not flow there.
It makes little sense for me to pursue the point. This paper is not graded. Nor is it type, It may not even be considered tactful. I am a scientist by profession, I take fact over tact. I should not care about drama but every day I play roles to save people the pain of horrid letters such as this. Drama is in me. I would probably like to see your face. But no. I’ll play it for laughs. I’ll be Felix and no one else. This is what will pass me. I’ll smile and ‘walk on the papers’.
I'm going to try and create a Wiki over at VisionCircle. This should be good. I'll probably be building one for my colleagues and also one at the Cubegeek Blog. It's time to jump into this.
After that relatively easy thing is done, I should be prepared to go with Wordpress or some slashclone and build TCB's portal. I've been promising to do this for a long time, and it looks like my time is freeing up so that I can actually do so.
Cass Tech Portal
Then I volunteered (for the sake of a hella e-mailing list) to put together a portal for Cass Tech Alums. This could be a nice part-time gig to fill up the coffers of Metro Decisions before I let that domain go dark. Considering the 800 bones I paid the State of California to keep the corporation in effect, I ought to be funnelling more cash through that.
China + Africa = Serious Business
I'm trying not to go off on a rant before I settle down, but NPR keeps getting on my nerves with this "China wants oil and doesn't care who it does business with... African despots...blah blah". The deal is that China can do some rawdog capitalism and you don't have to pretend you're Martha Stewart to do business with them. Wouldn't it be ironic if Africans start associating China with their economic progress instead of America. Seems all we do is Oxfam them every four years. Hmm. Is Chester Crocker behind this? Is Condi Rice?
Speaking of which, now with Colin Powell at KP and Condi Rice eventually retiring, I want to know how they start making connections to the future Good Africa. That's a business I'd like to do business with. At any rate, some of my well-informed readers are paying attention to this in vivid detail when it comes to Ethiopia, and I think they're right to be up in arms about Trade, not Aid.
It's past 11 and all I have tomorrow are meetings, but I've had enough nightlife for one evening. I'm concentrating on doing the social thing tomorrow rather than going in my own direction.
I can't even remember which night I wrote that, but it probably wasn't Friday. Now that I think about it, it was definitely Thursday. Here's the dilemma, and I put it to you as a question of manners and morals. You're out at a business social with a bunch of colleagues, many of who are younger than yourself. To what extent should you be honest and outgoing in the context of the situation? Should you:
A. Be yourself?
B. At all times act reserved?
C. Do as the Romans do?
The thing is, it's a nightclub. What does one do in nightclubs? What is one supposed to do? I don't know about you, but the answer for me is, drink, smoke, be merry and engage the crowd. Now when one nightclub turns into a crawl, things are getting a little out of hand. Yes or no? Hard to say.
I found myself answering one colleague whom I find particular likeable when she asked if I smoked. "I smoke in Chicago at midnight in nightclubs", was my reply. I also chase broads in similar situations. Of course for pudgy old married me, chasing broads has a distinct hook, which is like the game of 'If'. It's satisfying enough to size up the situation and recognize whether, as they say at Cape Canaveral, "We have a Go situation." Nothing ever gets launched, of course. Nevertheless it is a rather disturbing mindset that I personally have not been able to quite shake. The problem was, that this was a nightclub whose only attraction was as a drunk tank. A very nice one, but strictly for the purpose of the hookup, or the odd out-of-town-business social. Don't blame me, I didn't pick the joint.
Still, something about the music it got into my pants. So I found myself with another charming young lady investigating the dance possibilities. She suggested The Leg Room and so I did my best to suggest loudly that we get outta the first joint, The Grotto, and get to where dancing could be done. At the very least I could get some fresh air after my 7th drink, or was it my 9th?
So this motley parade of professionals in khakis ambled down State Street to Rush. They headed immediately into the queue for the next bar at the corner, as if it were raining outside or there was no oxygen to be found except at the bottom of the shot glasses. I told them that I was going rogue, but I'd be back. This was my chance to smoke another half dozen cigs and check out the action on the street. As is customary on nights like these, I am very generous with the Marlboro Lights, and at least 4 beggars cadged a square off me. Believe me none of them was cute, and though their cups were out for moola, none of them refused. Cigarettes are an alternative currency for denizens of the night, and I keep it handy like cash when I'm doing the dark prowl. Alas, there was no talent in Chi-Town that night. At least not my speed.
This is my marriage's built-in insurance policy. Not that I didn't goose it a touch by whipping out my Treo pictures of the Spousal Unit and my babies, but 98% of females leave me flat. I am both jaded and picky, which is exactly the right attitude for a man of my maturity. I never see the kind of women who seriously tempt me, and most of the time I don't look. This is a consequence of both my upbringing (Catholic), my geeky career (Software) and my compensation (Night Mastery). I told my friend that I couldnt' stand the place any longer - I've already gotten the names of all the girls I could have possibly been interested in within the hour. It was time to go.
I rejoined the wolfpack at the door of the Leg Room. I'm pretty sure they paid for my cover but at least I saved them a few bucks at the second joint. I had been around that block and I swore I saw some dancing on the second floor. The music was loudest out of the Leg Room so I figured that was it. So I get to my spot after doing a lap and then see that this has got the right dive groove going for it, but I've definitely had too much fresh air. So I'm a bit snapped out of the prowling mood, especially considering the good casing I've given the neighborhood. There were two other joints on Rush at which I made my presence known to the bouncers, but I decided against it all. For a moment, I was envious of the guy in the convertible Bentley with the two blondes, but then I thought better of myself.
The Leg Room seemed much more of an anything goes kind of joint, and I was digging that. The bartender at the register, after delivering the Jack & Coke and recieving a nice tip, lit my cigarette. He understands the business. The business of the nightclub is to cater to the fantasies of all these kids on the make. It was clear to me in that moment in a way it hasn't been since my cousin regaled me with stories of $500 tips when he tended bar on Wall Street in the 80s. I have the eye. I can tell who's having fun and who needs to do what to make their evening right. And I remember that there is nothing too weird. Night Mastery is about wish fulfillment. Since I'd mentally checked out, not having found the appropriate trust-funder to play bad boy with, I continued watching other people watch each other and occasionally make moves. Now it's a blur. Then it was pure enjoyment. I really love people.
Nothing is too weird in the clubs, but that must be hedged around your colleagues. I popped over to to where the gang was to have one more shot of something profoundly citrus, like an orange Altoid crushed into an ounce of Cointreau and vodka. Then I split without goodbye. Twelve drinks is the limit, and I had to pack the next morning.
It has been quite some time since I've had a good prowl in a strange town, and I had a riotously good time with a solid 4 hours of carousing. I only wish I had some people I knew a tad better and people who knew the town a touch better to crawl with. That and the freedom to not worry about retouching the rep. Everything I do works when I've got millions and titles, but I have neither, just.. a past colored by a certain lack of social fear.
I've decided that I very much like Chicago and aim to return. I know I can get a good steak at the Chop House, and a decent margarita at the Grotto. I still have no idea which way the river flows, but I'm going back into Project Gotham to see what I can recognize.
Walking the chalkline I expect, California seems to be doing the right thing. Who can say if they are for the right reasons? The WaPo reports:
The state's custody and child support laws that hold absent parents accountable also apply to estranged gay and lesbian couples who used reproductive science to conceive, the high court ruled Monday.
Being a legal parent "brings with it the benefits as well as the responsibilities," said Justice Joyce Kennard.
The decision comes a month after the justices ruled that a California domestic partner law grants gays and lesbians who register with the state many of the same rights as married couples, but does not allow them to marry.
It makes for a rather disturbing test case, considering that one of the women had a kind of strange pre-nup.
Lower courts and dissenting justices noted the woman, K.M., voluntarily signed a document declaring her intention not to become a parent of any resulting children, and should not be granted parental status.
So let's get this straight. One of the members of this lesbian couple said, hey I love you but we ain't raising no babies together, and tried to contractually wiggle her way out of the responsibilities of parenthood even though she went throught the trouble to be an egg donor. She was busted by the state. The state did the right thing by the child, despite the fact that the poor baby has at least one asshole of a parent.
I'm not saying this is typical, I'm saying this is real. So let's hear the common sense reaction. Should these people be married?
Today's Boston Globe profiles young Adam Hunter:
Hunter, who as an undergraduate headed Howard's chapter of College Republicans, sees himself as part of a younger generation of African-Americans. He is ready to cast aside traditional loyalties to the Democratic Party and forge his own political identity.
I've got vague memories of coverage of College Republicans out of Howard U, and perhaps Hunter is the same guy (oh yeah), but I think we will be hearing a great deal of similar stories as time goes by. By being the majority party, the GOP is destined to make sense of itself in recognition of its various factions. I continue to hope that the African American contingent grows significantly.
I haven't had nearly as much free time as when I was working my own business, so opportunities to speak on college campuses have been, and I've made no progress. However I will be in Greensboro this fall. I am very curious to know how undergrads would react to me and my message, which is born of the experience I've had with progressive politics.
I would sum up my message thusly, African American collegians are more free than their ancestors to single-mindedly pursue their careers. They are less indebted to the idea that some racial catastrophe would 'set back the race' than any previous generation, and they should take advantage of that fact to make more bold attempts at achieving independent excellence. What African America needs is capital formation and a better sense of networking which is not burdended with false socialist politics. There is a lot more social space out there. Take advantage of it. Work towards internationalism. Discover America. Learn a different language. Understand multiple religious philosophies. Cultivate cultivated friends. Air dirty laundry. Differentiate with respect.
I say, of course, more power to young Mr. Hunter. Oh yeah, and start a blog.
School supplies, a GED instruction kit, pencils, pens. Church fans. Cereal, a roller bag, personal hygene products, water bottles, toothbrushes, crayons, coloring books, a medicine kit, a t-shirt, a self-lathering battery powered razor, knee high stockings. A Kroger frisbee, lotion, notepads, a refigerator magnet, a socket protector, Listerine oral strips, a spanish language exercise video, a Fifth Third beachball, and shampoo samples.
These are some fraction of the goodies my sister got from the Black Family Reunion in Cincinnati this weekend. Oh and of course some baller bands (for ovarian cancer awareness).
As I sit here at 11:24 Eastern, I'm surrounded by one of the coolest Old School crowds I've been around in quite some time. It's the Class of 1980 and the party is jumping off.
These are the friends and classmates of the Spousal Unit. I extended my business swoop through Chicago to get over here to Motown and complete the weekend. Tonight was the dinner, tomorrow is the picnic. Monday is for sobering up.
There are a remarkable number of talented people who have their roots here at Cass, and I met a good number of them. A cat name Boykin who is a senior law partner in DC was at my table. Another brother named Webb does M&A work. I met a brother who's working the number 10 furniture chain in the US whose 30 stores are all in Michigan. There was a Canadian Mountie as well as a true Echelon Van Eck Phreak specialist in the house. Then there's a bit of celebrity in the crowd too. The lovely star of Access Hollywood co-MC'd the evening's festivities. There are showbiz folks from Interscope, a cast member of the Lion King and probably Cass' most famous graduate, jazz violinist Regina Carter (who was rippin' up the floor with a suave brother in a grey suit and Prada glasses). Right next to Regina was Carla Cook. Of course our old friends the Easleys were in the house and it was good to see them after all these years. Too bad Mike Traylor didn't show up..
Introductions went around and the crowd was full of impressive, not to mention good looking folks. The DJ cranked up the volume and the floor was packed. I'm fairly sure that people know that I'm from Cali by now because I worked up a serious sweat. I've got movies of the Cha Cha Slide that should go into the Smithsonian.
I've got a ton of pictures and business cards, and we'll get some of those uploaded in the morning. Right now it's time for slow dancing.
We remembered Bonnie & Clyde the security guards, the elevator operator, Miss Harper who kept saying "squeeze in". There was some character named Ed Woodruff who would 'fix' your report card, driver's license and everything else. Where is he now? Who started that food fight? Cyndi says it was probably one of the football team guys, but nobody will know for sure. Who could run from the basement to the top of the seventh floor for gym? Most of the jocks would stop on the way to smell the cookies baked in Home Ec.
Mike Lewis, the MC (and quarterback back in the day) is now a big shot at Delco and responsible for the launch of the Pontiac G6. (I like the G6, that's a sweet ride.) He said that Coach Spivey is his neighbor. People in the crowd figured his wife was about, what 12 years old? Speaking of freaky deaky, what about Coach Fears. He finally got the boot for trying to make kids swim naked, or so it was rumored. But there were fonder memories of English teacher Shakey Shirley, and the tough love given out by Mrs. Branch. One alum recalled that she wouldn't give him his test unless he buttom up his shirt 'and cover up your bony little chest'. She also got Colleen in big trouble spotting her from the sixth floor after Skip Day. Mike recalled that you basically failed if you got under 75 at Cass Tech. His neighbors at other public schools were happy to get a 74 which meant a C. Not at Cass.
Cyndi broke out the yearbook and people were glued. We checked out the big hair of the 70s. Areesa got a standing ovation for her efforts in pulling this thing together. But it ain't over yet.
Over time I have been looking at the few generations of African American as, well a few generations of African Americans. But I've also referred to them as 'blackfolks'. This is primarily to distinguish them from whitefolks based on some online stuff I was doing related to the politics of race and American identity. I think the term has been usefull for what it's worth, but I certainly hope that it hasn't been interpreted as some kind of essentialist or permanent state of consciousness for Africans.
In fact, much of what I do at Cobb is to explain what I think is an important aspect of African American politics from the perspective of the Old School. No matter what the Old School is, it is distinct from what goes under the broad header of 'black'. It is part of my aim to distinguish various parts of the African American populus and electorate, in other words to speak to the diversity of these 36 millions.
In the first regard, I have identified three streams of political orientation: Liberal, Progressive and Conservative. Towards the ends of giving some historical accuracy to these terms, I'm reading 'WEB Dubois and American Poltical Thought: Fabianism and the Color Line' by Adolph Reed. What I believe is that currently the largest number of African Americans in our history are recieving the same education, jobs and housing as their white peers. Because of this, it is perfectly logical that their political ambitions will be very similar to that of their contemporaries. However there will be notable differences in rationale as well as different priorities based upon the politics they have inherited. I intend to come correct, basically.
Existentially, props go to Nelson George for his spot-on characterization of the 'post-soul' generation. Buppies, B-Boys, BAPS and Bohos. The five-way split goes across class. For those, my terms are based on residential profiles. Hill, Burbs, Hood, Ghetto & Projects.
This gives me 60 profiles which I would say are largely attitundinal. I think they may not be predictive, but they go a good ways in getting us to understand some real diversity in African America.
Now what we have to do is start with these simple breakdowns and relate that back to an historical understanding of various ideas. When we talk about a subject like Black Nationalism, I ask, what did it do? Who benefitted? Who tried to sell it to whom? Who was left in and who was left out?
This afternoon at the airport where I lost my bluetooth headset on my way to Chicago, I looked forward to the peaceful moments above the country where I could stop engaging my colleagues on subjects of Gay Marriage and Black Militancy, both dubious concepts in which a great number of people other than me have invested much faith and rhetorical fire. Wouldn't you know the cover of Fortune magazine at the newstand dragged me back into the latter.
In 1962—less than a lifetime ago—Harvey C. Russell did what no other black man had done before. He became a vice president of a FORTUNE 500 company.
The company was Pepsi-Cola, and Russell, then 44, had been a standout salesman in its Negro Sales Department for the previous 12 years. "Mr. Russell's promotion was based solely on merit," Pepsi's president, Herbert Barnet, told the New York Times a few months later. "He came the hard way and has been one of our brilliant young men for 12 years." But this milestone was not greeted with widespread rejoicing. The Ku Klux Klan called for a national boycott of Pepsi's products. The group flooded the country with handbills that read: DON'T BUY PEPSI AND MAKE A NIGGER RICH.
On the cover of Fortune are old heads and new-jacks, veterans all of that place we call Corporate America. Not long ago I was talking about how Black Nationalism bogarded Corporate America, and while some would call that a militant mindset, I would not. If we have that kind of epistemological difference, that's OK, but I am notorious for parsing words to the extreme, and I'd prefer if people used my terms. Nevertheless there was a particular individual who struck me as different than the rest. His name is Lee Archer, and that's a funky webpage about him.
I also found this interesting clip about Archer:
Governor George E. Pataki unveiled a full-scale replica of a P-51 Mustang fighter as a permanent tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II at the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport. The Governor was joined by Lt. Col. Lee Archer, a Tuskegee ace whose aircraft markings are featured on the Mustang, and by leaders of Long Island’s veterans community. The replica will serve as a tribute to the challenge the Tuskegee Airmen faced in confronting a two-front war: the German Luftwaffe and American racism.
Lt. Colonel Lee Archer said, “Governor Pataki has been in the vanguard of the battle against racism in all its repugnant forms. It should come as no surprise that he would now take the lead in creating this fitting tribute to these veterans of 60 years ago. This Mustang represents every one of us who have been willing to fight—and to die—for our nation’s liberties. In honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, you honor the inherent strengths of a nation where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a right guaranteed to all of us, regardless of race, color or creed.”
That's what I'm talking about. Furthermore, here is part of the Fortune article on Archer:
General Foods sent Archer to the University of Pittsburgh to take a graduate course in financial management. He came back a venture capitalist. In 1973 he became CEO of Vanguard Capital Corp., General Foods' minority-business investment company. Two years later he also became CEO of North Street Capital Corp., the company's small-business investment arm; in 1980 he became CEO of Hudson Commercial Corp., a tobacco-investment arm. In those three roles he helped create 74 companies, including Essence Communications and Black Enterprise magazine. Archer also became a key advisor to the late Reginald Lewis in the leveraged buyout deal that created the conglomerate TLC Beatrice in 1987. "Lee is tough, just like my husband," says Loida Lewis, widow of the Beatrice CEO. "Lee constantly challenged him, which made him better. "
The hardest part of his corporate career, says Archer, was knowing who was going to be fair and who wasn't. For the 17 years he was at General Foods, he kept journals with lists of names. The names are divided into two lists: white hats and black hats. The white hats "gave me a shot," he says. The black hats ... Archer stumbles, trying to pick the best bad word he can think of. "It can't be published," he concludes. He won't name names. For him it is enough simply to write them down.
One of the things I hadn't mentioned in the debate about militancy was a couple of books by Price Cobbs. One of them is entitled 'Black Rage' and the one published after that is 'Cracking the Corporate Code : From Survival to Mastery'. I've only touched briefly on the subject of black organizational strategies, but I believe very strongly that what black nationalist organizations began in their move on Corporate America has been the most useful source of knowledge accruing to the state of African America. They owe their success to the inroads made by individuals like Lee Archer and others who put their heads down, rose up and offered a hand. I privilege this set of skills over those acquired through the integration of the Civil Service and of the Armed Forces, just so you know up front. I find men like Lee Archer to be heroic and worthy of emulation. He's what I would call an Old School pioneer.
Now how do I make the hookup?
Dan LeRoy over at NRO has given a little digital ink to members of The Conservative Brotherhood:
Right-of-center black bloggers, in fact, seem to be entering that public eye almost daily. That shouldn't be a surprise, given statistics on growing Internet usage among black Americans, and the revelation that a quarter of young blacks consider themselves conservative (from an eye-opening study conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and released last month at the Democratic National Convention.)
From the veteran's perspective of Baldilocks to the playful philosophizing of Ambra Nykol, the Internet is suddenly full of great black writers whose views aren't monolithic — you'll find almost-daily disagreements about affirmative action, President Bush or the morality of gangsta rap — but instead offer a vibrant, hip-hop generation alternative to the broken record of the civil-rights establishment.
We keep on moving.
"The fire next time will be put out next week."
-- Albert Murray
I have to confess that I have not read James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time". But if there is one book that captures the spirit of the desire to see America burn from black rage, my guess is that Baldwin's book is the intellectual ground zero. I also haven't read Eldridge Cleaver's "Soul on Ice", but something tells me that every black prison pseudo-intellectual is derivative. So when Ed Brown asks, what good has come of black militancy, the answer is only a mindset. There may be some usefulness in the idea of black militancy, but no actual black militants have had any military success. Nobody took on the National Guard, much less the Army and won. Nobody made any tactical moves that resulted in any significant infrastructural damage to the enemy, and nobody set up any militant organization that lasted. Sure there were some riots, sure there are plenty of dainty people who are still afraid of traveling south of the Santa Monica Freeway but there has been no land gained. When it comes to speaking of the legacy of the Watts Riots, that insurgency has been squashed.
It should be enough to say that nobody can name any single figure who led the Watts Riots or the Riot after Rodney King. It was a bunch of dissatisfied people going berserk, some for good reason, many for no good reason at all. I've always held that Black Rage is just a substitute for effective politics.
There is a small contingent of people who have attempted to elevate some OG Crips and Bloods to the status of revolutionary leaders. But even if a dozen leaders of the Crips or Bloods were absolutely on that moral and political program, there's nobody anywhere who could say they have been effective to any degree. They're just street gangs, and that's about as militant as 20th century African Americans got with one exception, the Black Panthers, also defunct. Most people agree that the Panther's greatest success, aside from cool-looking blacklight posters, and jumpstarting gun control in California, was their breakfast program and their newsletter. Hardly the legacy of a successful gang of militants. Most of black militancy has basically been nothing but a militant pose.
This militant pose has worked miracles in the academy where a great deal of black success has taken place. I needn't tell you how ridiculous it sounds in the context of world history to recount the sieges of undergraduate dorms and administration buildings, but somehow this has become legend. What an embarrassment.
But let's not forget the power of the militant mindset. Understand that a significant number of African Americans are under the influence of a pseudo-democratic confusion masquerading as radical politics. The problem is that it is not effectively organized and people have to keep going back to the books. It's always the ghost of Malcolm X who is more effective than the real person standing in front of the black crowd. It's always the idea of James Baldwin's Fire Next Time that's more compelling than the actual plan under consideration. There isn't a politics that has any consistent success in delivering requisite patronage to blacks who would be militants. Legitimate black lefties always have to look over their shoulders because one of their followers might be a real knucklehead or gangbanger who thinks that there is some role for them as a violent henchman. There's always a crowd of rowdies looking for an excuse to do damage haunting black Democrats. This is why politicians like Maxine Waters are put on the spot when the street gets hectic. They're not really her people, but they claim her nonetheless, and naturally since she's a politician, she figures out a way to give them rhetorical satisfaction while not actually doing a damned thing that could ever be close to indictable. This is the state of black militancy today.
Anybody with a lick of common sense knows that there's no future in this frontin'. There is no way to win through militant conflict, and there's really no black leaders capable of mounting a rebellion. Well, there are, but they're the good guys in the US Armed Forces, and there is no racial politics compelling enough for them to bolt.
And yet people continue to be seduced by the potential amplification of black rage into black militancy. I say it's not going to happen and woe to those who hope it does. Maybe you need to rent a copy of 'Dead Presidents' then smoke a joint and forget about it. Better yet, rent 'Black Ceasar' and play some Public Enemy. Then wake up and recognize that Steve Cokely and Khalid Muhammed and all other such pretenders don't even merit a trip to Club Gitmo. That's how pathetic their threat is. Your local neighborhood cops are plenty, and if not them then the local branch of the FBI. But the National Guard? Hardly. The Army? Puhlease. The reason is simple and plain. Blacks don't rebel because blacks don't have anything worth rebelling for that rises to the level of militancy. Not unemployment, not poor health care, not police abuse, not racism, not Reparations, not nothing. All that is handled, for better or worse, by a coast to coast network of Leftists, and what African Americans get by way of those legitimate political activities is good enough. The rest are welcome to go to jail like idiot sheep with bad attitudes.
I know there is a sentiment among many blackfolks, myself included, that wishes that there was something more to the legacy of the militant mindset than PE's 'Fight the Power' video. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction out there in African America, and all responsible political thinkers want to convert that black rage into constructive politics. But all wishful thinking aside, we have to admit that black rage is self-destructive. It won't yeild anything but another excuse for knuckleheads to attach themselves to legitimate desires for reform. But from my perspective in the Old School, black liberals and Democrats have not done enough to make clear the distinction between rebellion and reform. So the seduction and double-talk continues and the idea of black militancy hasn't been properly buried with Malcolm - not that he was half the military leader people like to imagine he might have been. So my message to wannabe militants? I quote Sargeant Waters from 'A Soldier's Story': "The black race can't afford you no more."
In the movie Trading Places starring Eddie Murphy, we find two old codgers betting a dollar between them that they could manipulate the lives of two young men. One of them is something of a pansy associate, the other a streetwise stranger. It was a pretty popular movie in those days.
Our TCB associate has brought up the question of the value of human life and asks us to put a figure on it. It's absolutely impossible, and yet it's done every day. The extraordinary thing about economics is that it shows how people vote with their feet. It's not just about what people say they will do, but what they actually do. People collectively put a value on everything, including human life. A market economy tries with varying successes to put the price that everyone puts on everything into currency controlled by the government. And so in America, we can count gains and losses in terms of dollars. What a country!
The important thing to remember is that people have short attention spans sometimes. Other times they are obsessive. So the girl that you paid no mind yesterday can suddenly become a goddess at the center of the universe. You discover she has bad breath... well, you get the picture.
I think that when it comes to a good portion of those things associated with quality of life, we Americans have a fairly efficient market. What is the cost of pollution? Find a neighborhood that's polluted and check the property values. It's almost second nature for us to understand that rich people don't live on toxic waste dumps. But most of us don't either. How much toxicity will we stand? These are economic arguments.
When it comes to healthcare, we Americans have a very inefficient market. There are a lot of interests who resist the very idea of having prices available to the public. How much does it cost to set a broken leg? 'That depends' is about the best answer anyone can give. Last year, my mother underwent surgery to remove a liver cancer. According to a number of doctors, liver cancer is the best cancer to have - the success rate is pretty good. My understanding is that her procedures and treatment were worth about $750,000 and it was completely covered by Medicare. There all kinds of experts and all kinds of quacks and all kinds of suggestions when it came to how and when, and we could not have made any real decision based on cost. It was too complex, not to mention emotional. But all emotions aside, somebody knew how to get paid and what they wanted to charge.
So no matter what people think, despite the fact that we are blind to the complexities of the system, there are price tags associated with human life.
I'm in the business of Business Intelligence. I make systems that help businesses keep track of all their money and help them make rational decisions. I can tell you from experience that the Insurance business is way ahead of the Healthcare business when it comes to using this technology. I also have a very strong feeling that the government's ability to adjust is way outmaneuvered by the healthcare and insurance. So from my perspective, it is very difficult for any entrepreneurial doctors to find a way to help consumers of healthcare, because most of the money is tied up in slow government rules and quick insurance hedges. By the time government figures out a way to arrange public benefits, insurers will have squeezed all the profit out of it and healthcare providers are left holding the bag. We consumers take what we can get, and feel lucky if we get anything at all.
This is obviously, obviously wrong, and it's an enormous problem, because it requires cooperation and coordination across insureres, doctors, governments, consumers and a million lawyers. In that regard, I think the only way to fix it is by government decree, but we are a long way from securing bipartisanship.
There are going to have to be some consumer advocates and some healthcare providers who are going to have to advertise a new way of getting our attention. When it comes to benefits election time, once a year, we hear from the insurers, but never from the hospitals in our community. I'd like to see a range of hospitals in LA tell me how I could go COBRA and save based on a lower granularity of a mix of services and benefit than just picking co-pay and deductibles. I'd like my employer to allow me to decide how to spend my fringe benefits with a bit more control.
Until such time as there is smarter public pricing, more comsumer choice and more flexibility with fringe benefit spending, the same people are going to dictate the price of life. And we won't be able to do a damned thing about it.
There are actually some days when I wish I were an attorney, if only to know what it's like to be hated worse than a black man. Other times, like today I'd like to know the difference between civil and criminal contempt, and in that way I'd understand something about the flap over Bear Flagger XRLQ and even more about the Plame game.
What I can tell is that it's not ok to call people liars at their own website, especially if they are pedantic. I think this is just the sort of thing that is the difference between the MSM and the blogosphere. Long live the blogosphere, where a spade is a goddamned spade - even if it's all in legalese.
I sometimes wonder why, given the amount of intellectual crack many liberals smoke, nobody has come out to be the anti-DeLay. Perhaps they are so convinced of DeLay's turpitude that they feel it's redundant. Nevertheless, it is astonishing to see how many tangents have been tagged to DeLay as the investigations of Jack Abramhoff have finally netted a real indictment.
I listened to NPR this morning whilst driving down the wrong freeway, and I swear in the same report I heard at least 4 qualifications on how nothing in the indictment is connected to Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay. What a backhanded smear.
I can't stand DeLay myself. I think his ascent has marked the the end of bipartisanship and the ushered in the tyranny of the thinnest majority (which is the defacto worst of the best ideas), but beat him down for what he's done, not for who he hangs out with.
John Singleton has earned my permanent wrath as a storyteller in black and white. It started as the kind of hate only poets can sustain, way back in the early 90s when he broke onto the scene with Boyz N The Hood. Of course it was his trumpeted brilliance as a USC Film student that got me interested in the first place. But the fact of the matter is I hate how he eviscerated all of my bourgie friends in the Dons from his filmic vision of the emerging myth of Southcentral LA. I can't remember which one of the two gave me greater heartburn, Terry McMillan or John Singleton. But that was then.
Today, it cannot be argued that Singleton is anything but an accomplished and mature filmmaker. So there are really no excuses to be had for his latest film 'Four Brothers'.
FB lies in the space between action and drama, a good story and clever entertainment. In the end, the thing it's not is a smart and funny film. It's almost smart and almost funny. In the end, the whole thing just breaks apart when you realize that somehow you are suppsed to feel empathy for a gang of brothers who shot up half of Detroit in a vendetta against the killers of their mother.
The timing and the editing of this film is just miserable. Too many shots of actors looking off in the distance behind the camera. Turn the camera around, dammit. Too many drawn out scenes.. ah. It could have been better but it wasn't.
Since I'm feeling rather combattive and restive this evening, I'll just cruise around looking for people to defend Singleton's singularly gritty hard-knock life. This one could have been fun like 'Biker Boyz' but I think he scotched the potential of this one.
I give it 72%
I probably have explained why I think the Gay Marriage Movement is unlike the Civil Rights Movement, but there is a citation that I haven't given which is also central in my logic here. I'll repeat it for the record.
Opposition to Civil Union and an insistence on the honor of Marriage sounds very much to me like declaring oneself white. Take the well understood paradigm of the Jim Crow South. Segregation of public accomodations was the law. You might want to go to a the place marked 'White' instead of the place marked 'Colored' for the sake of equality, but the way you achieve that is very significant. One option might be to burn down all of the colored or white establishments forcing everyone to use the same facilities. The choice of the Movement was to take down the signs one at a time. Another choice would be for James Meredith or Rosa Parks to declare themselves as White. They could have just said, let's declare everyone White.
If they had done so, I think it would have been a terrible error for a number of reasons. And so this is how the Gay Marriage Movement differes in principle from the CRM (aside from the fact that Marriage is a privilege and an honor, not a right). Activists for Gay Marriage are demaning, ostensibly but disingenuously for the sake of equal rights, that gay couples be declared Married. It would then follow that they could do the analog of eat in the White section.
Why I find this so preposterous is that I am confident that the overwhelming majority of Americans, given a case by case accounting of the actual wrongs inflicted on gays, would be amenable to judgements in their favor. With that in mind, consider the judgments made by Frank Johnson. Here are a few:
Browder v. Gayle (1956)
Orders the racial integration of the public transportation system of the city of Mongomery.
Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1961)
Invalidated the cy of Tuskeegee's plan to dilute vlack voting strength by redrawing city boundaries so as to move concentrations of black voters out of the city limits.
United States v. Alabama (1961)
Ordered that black persons be registered to vote if their application papers were equal to the performance of the least qualified white applicant accepted on the voting rolls.
Lewis v. Greyhound (1961)
Required desegration of the bus depots of the city of Montgomery
United States v. City of Mongomery (1961)
Ordered the city of Montgomery to surrender its voting registration records to the US Department of Justice.
I challenge any proponent of Gay Marriage to provide evidence of such a judicial agenda going the wrong way. Consider that there aren't very many even on the watchlist of the ACLU, and many cases are going as planned.
This is a war that cannot be won in terms of Marriage. You keep a-knockin' but you can't come in. Registered Domestic Partnerships? Sure. Disney did the benefits thing 10 years ago, so did the State of New York. But the latest spate of fights over contested marriage licenses in Massachussets and California prove that it's not easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Either way, the answer is probably no.
I'm going to beat this horse to death again.
A thought occurred to me this morning in consideration of the liberal activism in support of gay marriage. It recalls once again my insistence of the importance of 'The Legacy of Stonewall. Once again this afternoon, on Talk of the Nation, I heard a stereotypical conservative opinion that all gays are going to hell, and a stereotypical liberal opinion that domesticates gay life.
What I'm here to suggest is that gay life is not domesticated. This is a double edged sword.
When I think of 'gay', I only think of 'homosexual' for a brief moment. Gay is to homosexual as black is to African. You can be born African, but you have to act black. Gay is a cultural and political expression of homosexuality born of an intellectual and political movement. A man who gets raped in prison is not gay. Let's not draw too fine a line on it other to say that you cannot be born gay, you learn to be gay. This is not to say that you cannot be born homosexual any more than saying you cannot be born a pole vaulter. How do you know until you try to express your desire? There will be natural talents and proclivities. The question is, what to do with them? That is a social question with which all of us, het and homo, are involved.
In other words, everyone has a right to say what is or is not a proper expression of sexuality. Simply because you are born differently does not give you an excuse not to heed the will of society. Ah, but there's the rub. Part of what Gay Pride is, just as with Black Pride, is telling society to take a hike.
So let us, for the sake of clarity, confuse things again by adding another term. Let us call all of the homosexuals, bisexuals, transexuals, transvestites and others who seek to politicize their sexuality as a thumb in the eye of society, queer. The question becomes, how many 'gays' as the object of liberal activism are actually queer?
I think more 'gays' are queer than liberal activists want to admit, and queers are not interested in marriage. The point of this title is that NPR hosts and other politically correct folks are thinking gay as in high school English teacher gay. They are not thinking male exotic dancer gay or prison guard gay. My nickel says that they are thinking timid quiet repressed people or odd creatives who need more than just a way to visit their friends in the hospital, but mainstream acceptance. They are not thinking about guys who look like Hulk Hogan or Tiny Lister or men who do actually very much hate and fear women.
I am not particularly put off by the idea of hot 40 year old guys who cruise for casual sex with hot 20 year old guys. I think I have quite enough understanding about male sexuality to understand the attraction of a zipless fuck. And I think it is a huge deception to say that the Gay Pride movement existed in its own world outside of the context of the sexual revolution in America, a great deal of which was spent in pursuit of just that.
So what I'm saying is that the extent to which people willingly submit their sexual desires to the discipline and scrutiny of the general public under generally understood conventions, as represented by thousands-year-old traditions of marriage, they are morally superior to those out for simple gratification. I am not convinced that activists for Gay Marriage care to make that distinction. Rather, they would have us believe that everyone's sexual gratification is equally amoral and what difference does it make who calls it marriage? Marriage that is blind to distinction is not distinguished at all. So instead only the most palatable gay stereotypes are being raised for the sake of this political assault and all the queers are being tossed aside. This is the height of hipocrisy.
The import of all this is that het and homo alike, in negotiating some terms for social equality both have interests in determining a socially acceptable code of behavior for gay partners. I am continually stunned that a civil union which is for all intents and purposes legally identical to a common law marriage, ie shacking up, is not acceptable to liberal activists.
In today's NYT it is reported that Google is suspending some of its ambitious operations to digitize several libraries. Apparently, its efforts have rubbed some publishers the wrong way.
''We think most publishers and authors will choose to participate in the publisher program in order (to) introduce their work to countless readers around the world,'' Smith wrote. ''But we know that not everyone agrees, and we want to do our best to respect their views too.''
Google wants publishers to notify the company which copyrighted books they don't want scanned, effectively requiring the industry to opt out of the program instead of opting in.
That approach rankled the Association of American Publishers.
There's nothing that annoys me so much as the behavior of selfish children. You know how it happens. One kid refuses to share their new stupid toy and the other kid gets bored and goes off to look for something to do. The bored kid find an old toy that hasn't been seen in years and the selfish kid claims that it was his. This is an intellectual property issue of course.
As I mentioned in Las Vegas, this kind of demand for restraint by publishers and other IP holders will inevitably result in their self-marginalization. Because unlike with real estate, there's always another way of saying the same thing - always another pass through the mountains. The value of ideas does not work on the same principles of scarcity, so creating artificial scarcity through IP restraints, will not necessarily result in an economically favorable position.
Imagine that you were my great-granddaughter and the sole owner of the Cobbian Archives. In order for this material to be valuable, you would have to be able to demonstrate that way back in 2005, there were actually black Republicans being challenged by the public. But since nobody remembers such a fact (since in the future 90% of blacks will be Republican), you would have to somehow establish that public recollection. You would do so by engaging in selling to colleges and universities some edited-down version of the Archives (which probably would not include the rude language of my 'Thats Settled' comic). But having made that nice little deal with some universities and settling the academic question, how much further should you milk the deal? I'm saying there is a point of diminishing returns at which the value of public literacy outweighs the value of private gain. Remarketing ad-infinitum seems to me to be a bad idea.
I'd only add one more example, since I'm spiting liberals these days. That would be the example of the Bible. Would it help the Church to restrain the trade in Bibles? For a great number of ideas, their true to society value is found in their free distribution.
What is a reasonable expectation of marriage? Several weeks ago the subject of gay marriage came up and the Angle Man threw me a curveball. Angle Man is an overachieving striver from the bowels of NYC. He has a knack for playing the system up to the limit in a way that's a little bit scary for a guy like me. The curveball he basically threw was that if gay marriage became some kind of law then the first thing he'd do would be marry his father.
It all had to do with money in a way that I couldn't quite figure out, but it basically allowed him to sidestep some capital gains or inheritance law. According to the Angle Man, there are ways that spouses can inherit money that aren't taxed as other kinds of gifts. At a certain level of capital this becomes very significant.
Now I have heard some extraordinarily biting criticisms of white male hegemony, but none so scathing as those delivered by some of my womanist friends. Forget reproductive rights, these black feminists are all about power. Nothing gets under their skin like the idea of rich white men worshipping rich white men, especially the good looking ones that get on television. The idea that they could marry each other legally and find yet more ways to make each other richer just rocks the black feminist world which already reeks of resentment by the treatment black women get by straight white males.
The enemy of my enemy? I just thought I'd throw that out there. When it comes to class, race and gender whom do you think is going to make the most economic advantage of gay marriage? You know damned well.
17 years plus of incomplete poems
Bold legacy of my halfwit journal.
Some raps in rhythms unrecognizable.
Confessions, impressions I’d rather deny.
Life's a complaint of itinerate storms
Downpouring madness and leaving me soaking.
Giving me weight so I feel myself walking
Dripping by conscience I’d rather be dry.
Dozens of dozens compacted with winzip
Clutter directories deep on the drive
Squirreled and squished away squelched in my memory
Leaving a deepness I dropped for my babies
Inward summations delivered to no one
Or no one to puncture my aura for fear
I grimace and stomach and savor my bile
And smile as if Charlie were actually here.
So me and my new professional colleagues are gelling fairly well. In fact, my reputation as a conservative is making me the butt of some halfway decent humor. T-2, one of the few alpha-geeks who could very easily pass for a generic type-A, has got me as a closet queen who only pretends to oppose gay marriage. I'll be thinking of some clever comebacks soon.
But the ribbing that kills me the most is that one of the sales sharks has actually outdone me on gadgetry. So the other day we're sitting in the bar of the Courtyard bitching about how we have to compete with Microsoft promises, and he's doing email on his laptop. I mention the fact that I can't get any WiFi in this joint, how could he do it? "I've got an aircard", he says. A what? He points to this Verizon PCMCIA sticking out of his T41 and I'm stunned. I knew this was coming, but I thought it was still in beta. Where have I been that I haven't heard about this?
Now one scoop is bad enough, but he fronted on me the other night about SAP's middle tier. Weblogic is going to bite the dust to SAP? It seems impossible to believe. And yet it might be. Well this and EVDO is just too much. I mean I can bear the fact that sales sharks make all the money, but scooping me on gadgets and middle tier?
I did get back at him by making a very cool powerpoint, but it still doesn't seem to make up for it. So I wound up at the Supermall of the Great Northwest's Verizon store. Within 45 minutes I was doing some serious downloads in my car. Sweet. Finally, the promise of Ricochet is real and the coverage is great. Sprint got scooped on this one.
For 90 bucks a month I now am rid of the problem of corporate firewalls. I bring my own laptop and I surf where I please. No more ssh tunnelling to lynx so I can blog during business hours. (Lynx really sucks when it comes to Typekey authentication or other https). I can IM, listen to streaming audio, FTP. Way cool.
As far as I can see, there's only one problem. I don't get to expense it.
The last time I read Ebony was when one of the Johnson granddaughters had the most fabulous wedding in Chicago. I can't remember how long ago it was, but it had to be at least 15 years. It was probably around the same time that I started taking black literary fiction seriously, in the days just before Toni Morrison took over the American literary scene. But a long time before then I poo-poohed, but never missed, the maganize's annual list of the 100 most influential black Americans. Whenever I would see 'Grand Polemarch' of some fraternal order among the Ebony faces, I would suck my teeth in shame. Whenever I would see the ever-increasly grizzled old mug of the Hon. Elijah Muhammed, I would roll my eyes. These were the old guard, keepers of the flame. They were the leaders of the world that had failed to impress my generation. If they had power and influence, who was it over? Nothing quite got under my skin like the success of the Bronner Brothers, a couple of Jheri Curl twins in powder blue tracksuits who seemed, according to the editors of Ebony Magazine to be the embodiment of young, gifted and black. Their claim to fame?
Jheri curl juice hair care products for African Americans.
Jet, on the other hand, managed to keep my attention longer. In their Speaking of People section, I could always count on seeing somebody who reminded me of the black detective on the Barney Miller Show. Respectable, smooth, solidly middle class, no nonsense. In this inverted sense, I always saw the future of the black nation as yet to become. The middle class had more class than the 'best' and the brightest on the top. Even figures like John H. Johnson himself never seemed to have the edge that seemed to be required in my America.
What ever can be said for the lack of depth of Ebony, it could never be faulted for being vulgar, cynical or pretentious. It was just the kind of magazine a rich dad would want his daughters to read. People forget, certainly I must have - or never knew, that Johnson also published Negro Digest. Negro Digest pulled from the ranks of the most thoughtful and provocative writers on the edge of black intellectual ferment in the 60s. Notables among them included LeRoi Jones, A. Phillip Randolph, Richard Wright and Ron Karenga. When it was time, Johnson clearly went there.
I've posted some of the Negro Digest covers from my father's library, and they show evidence of a consistent and clear concern and debate about serious issues. There are a lot of people who could learn from that. I'm convinced that Johnson himself understood very well the diversity of African America and in the end chose to highlight the bright side, not because he was afraid or ashamed but because he understood where the bulk of black America's hopes and dreams lay. Ebony and Jet were magazines for working class and lower middle class blackfolks and it reinforced their optimistic view of a middle class black America. Johnson did the right thing.
I suspect that upon his passing, Johnson might be remembered as the man who put too happy a face on black life. Let's not forget he was thoughtful too.
Something I just finished by Jimi Izrael has made me change my mind. That, and several other things have conspired to make me drop the idea I said I was going to take up in the blog - that of 'relationships'. As he was writing about Danyel Smith, which took me around the 'sphere to Mark Neal and Bomani Jones, I thought about my old buddy Sheryl Huggins and the black literary collective that never was in the New York of my dreams.
It just so happens that I considered doing an open mic performance yesterday. So I sat for two hours in my empty house and read aloud all the poetry I had written oh so many years ago. This time, unlike times previous, I wasn't afraid to edit it and make it better. As well, with a fresh face, I wasn't afraid at all to call a great deal of it stinky. In all the time I was reading, I never once thought about Sheryl Huggins and that's a damned shame.
You see, Sheryl was my sort-of muse in Brooklyn. She was the brains behind a magazine called Shade. It was going to be the sophisticated urban upscale fashion and culture magazine that was going to rip a chic hole in the space-time continuum of America. It didn't. You haven't heard of Shade Magazine have you? I wasn't much help. In the moments where I could have and perhaps should have made the hookups real with Greg Tate, Sekou Sundiata, Omar Wasow, Lisa Jones and others interesting, I walked on bourgie eggshells. I was writing poetry and love songs for them and people like them. People like the 22 of you who read this blog - a discerning minority on the fringes of the margin. It's not that I didn't have the heart, but that I didn't have the audience and I couldn't wish it to be any larger than it was, or is. I look at my poetry today and know what I wanted people to know and feel. It's still raw and powerful under the surface, but I ran out of motivation to polish it. I found Sheryl when Shade was failing and the bank officers were calling. That's what kept me out of it all. Shade was a debt as big as a house in California and I knew I wasn't prepared to play in that league. Not with mine or with other people's money.
I looked around the offices of Shade. It was a PeeWee's playhouse of magazine clippings, artwork and a thousand snippets of creativity for which my vocabulary had no buckets. The office was shared with McLean Greaves who lived in some corner of nirvana unapproachable by negroes beyond arms distance. The entire setup had the aura of gorgeous futility, a tragic kind of beautiful stillborn thing. Whenever Sheryl entered the joint, her brow knit up like a crumpled lunchbag. We wanted to be the substrate of desire of new black dreams, all that and gay friendly too. Sheryl took me to upper-eastside poetry readings and cafes. We met genuine African-American Wall Street types with genuine African business connections. If we could only put it all together. But my arms were too short. The cash wasn't flowing. The audience wasn't listening. We were the hip center of a universe in which there was no gravity.
My uncle once told me "Hollywood is like any other business, except the people are twice as flaky." That was a night we sat up waiting for a phone call from Stevie Wonder. Everything is possible but nothing is real. The reality of the failure of Shade pushed me over the edge into the punk zone of cultural production. What are the chances that I would want to mortgage half a million to build a big glossy instantiation of black high culture? It all seemed suddenly impossible. There was no chance for melioration in text and graphics - all we could do was go to the right parties and catch the vibe face to face.
It intensified my longing for the purest literary endeavors. Serious people read, they didn't need to be seduced.
A great deal of my vehemence against hiphop has to do with Sheryl's debt. In the days when people were still shocked about a group like Onyx, in the days when Spike Lee was about as controversial as anybody black could possibly be, there was a time when people held out hope for the enlightenment of all my folks, as Speech of Arrested Development once said. Before the New Media had names like Razorfish, when the NetNoir deal was all the rage - there was strong component of faith that those of us on the funded side of the digital divide might make a bridge. But there are always the millions who don't care, and they are always willing to drop 17 dollars worth of respect. That's 17 million we never got, and probably never will.
I'm not going to write in this blog about boys and girls. I already know that anybody who's ready for gay marriage finds the concept of sanctity ridiculous. I'm not even trying to convince them. I'm not going into any debt to try and elevate with elegance - either we'll meet at the same party or we won't. I had felt, for a moment, a sense of obligation to the fatherless millions who are my African American brothers. But now is not the time to talk about love or high culture. I leave that for another day, perhaps for Lucifer Jones. How you get your inspiration, I'm sorry, that's your business. I bled that gallon 14 years ago.
The last we heard from Sheryl was NiaOnline.com. I hope you have landed softly Sheryl, whereever you are. I'm sorry I never had the million bucks.
What is wrong with people that they don't know this stuff? I mean this guy calls in and he says he's got this woman and her kid living in his house and what should he do? Leykis walks him through the finer points of his stupidity and sends him off with an understanding in no uncertain terms that it's her or his career. In my 20s I was so persnickety about women, some people thought I was gay, but it sure is good to this kind of flat talk on talk radio.
Leykis is murder on single mothers and everybody who listens to his show knows it. His position is basically this: IT'S A MISTAKE. No argument here. The intellectual in me wants to second-guess him, but I know he's right. In fact, the second-guess argument in me went back to the question of abortion rights during the beginning of the Culture Wars. I had the balls to suggest, without much proof either way, that black families persist because black women are not as afraid as white women to be 'burdened' with children. So our abortion rates are much lower and our 'extended families' are more real. That was 1986, and I haven't gone there much since. Instead, I turned to more macroeconomic explanations of poverty. But I'm probably about to turn all that waffling on its head this month as I revisit Moynihan. But I can tell you confidently on the gut level, that Tom Leykis has it dead right when it comes to dating, sex and family values. I haven't heard him misspeak yet.
Although I don't listen as often as perhaps a conservative pundit ought to, I do sense something conspicuously dysfunctional about today's relationships. Cobb's Rule #1 is that "There is marriage, and there is everything else. Everything else doesn't matter." So I don't really give spit credibility to 'relationships'. As I was saying not long ago, you would think with the diseases and trifling people out there, young folks ought to get it through their heads that it ought to be all about getting to the alter in one piece. Nevertheless, they amazingly seem to sidle half-assed into 'relationships' and wonder what's wrong.
So I'm thinking here, as I look at Ambra's talk about what men do wrong, that I should jump onboard this meme and take it to the next phase. Because clearly, if Leykis is making money, there's not enough daddy work going on and perhaps I can be of service.
The more I think about it, the more I need to slap myself for not doing more. Especially as I get into this gay marriage discussion, it sounds like all I am is 'against' while not saying what I'm for. Furthermore, a lot of confusion surrounds my position as conservative, as if conservative blacks have the same exact puritan hangups as our non-black cousins. And so I think I'll start a new category, Boys & Girls. I'll test it out with the readership and use the best of it for my own kids.
Michael David Cobb Bowen is the blogger and political cartoonist 'Cobb'. He writes from the perspective of a moderate conservative Republican representing the 'Old School' of African American culture and values. In his 15 year career of writing as a poet and essayist he has been called the Ralph Ellison of his generation.
Bowen was raised in middle-class black Los Angeles the oldest of five children by Catholic and Episcopalian parents who worked civil service jobs and engaged in grass roots political activism. He attented Catholic schools and went on to pursue his degree in Computer Science after a distinguished highschool career and a series of odd- including union jobs.
In college he was twice elected National Finance Officer of the National Society of Black Engineers. He went on to work for the Xerox Systems Group, Pilot Executive Software, Arbor Software and his own consultancies. He is currently a Data Architect for a major US consultancy specializing in Business Intelligence and Sarb-Ox compliant systems.
He is a free-lance writer of note in internet circles. Never far from issues of race, politics and culture he has written extensively in public online spaces since 1993 from The Well to Cafe Utne where he was host of the Society Conference. He is the author of many controversial websites including Boohab's Factotum and the Race Man's Home Companion.
Today, he is a Large Mammal and member of the Bear Flag League of conservative California bloggers. His current projects include Vision Circle, a black progressive group blog and XRepublic, a model for a virtual parliament. Most notably, he is the founder of The Conservative Brotherhood whose 15 blogging authors have become the defacto voice of the Black Conservatism online.
(and then Charlie Rose says: Welcome!)
Other interesting facts:
Bowen was an original member of the Young Simbas and still celebrates Kwanzaa.
Bowen is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the frat of Thurgood Marshall, MLK and others of great distinction.
Bowen has an insider's acquaintance with the black upper-middle and upper class and their organizations such as the Links and the Boule, as well as the black private school cliques of late 70s Los Angeles.
Bowen considers himself a Hayekian, a pragmatist, an economic Chicagoan, and a solid geopolitical neoconservative. He is a civil libertarian that supports civil unions for gays but not 'gay marriage'.
Bowen maintains strong ties to the black progressive political tradition and is trying to influence it and reconcile the strengths of black nationalism and black consciousness with what he calls the "politics of social power". He is a strong integrationist and remains weakly positive on Affirmative Action.
I had no idea that Seattle had a monorail, and if I hadn't gotten temporarily lost with Ambra Nykol the other night, I never would have known.
In the end we found a joint called the Ikon Grill which looked like something of a cross between a circus tent, a grandmother's living room and lamp museum. The scallops and wild rice were the bomb. She had a $12 bowl of their legendary macaroni & cheese.
Ambra's cool. She impresses me as a wonderfully independent minded person who has time to be curious, but not time to be wasted. She'll go anywhere once. I probably spent more time shooting off my mouth than I should have, and on retrospect I would have liked to have asked her a bunch more questions - interview style. But I do know that like me, she's an east-coaster at heart, though she stays in the west. She comes from a family of over-achievers and sees through most people's BS. She knows about that crowd who used to instigate paper bag and ruler tests and like me, quickly tired of it. Well, maybe I wasn't so quick, regressive as I am becoming.
We talked about so much of everything it's hard to remember what. A lot about blogging cliques, the future of TCB, the Blogher conference, XRepublic, my Ex (see, I should have shutup) and the philosophy at Google. I also know that I don't know Ambra's real name. Apparently, she has experienced cyberstalking headaches on occasion. She's not phased by it but, better safe than sorry. We both wonder what the Mac Diva looks like and agree that Oliver Willis is a basketcase and that EJ Flavors is cool.
I felt the need to expound upon the lonly existence in the margin of the fringe of the fraction of the minority of upper-middle class black life on the right as we sat at the table in the front in the corner in the light. I think I turned a bit sentimental reminescing about love lost and found. How many times have I met brilliant, beautiful black women in the American diaspora? At the level of seeking company, I almost sympathize with Debra Dickerson's latest complaint. Of course it's not enough simply to be wanted, but to be wed. And while I have no doubt that Ambra will land on her feet, I couldn't help but recognize how outnumbered we are - especially earlier that evening at the bar of Wild Ginger. Perhaps I speculate too much about how much of single life is spent in the ultimate pursuit, but then again I was being a bit too much about my past instead of her future that evening.
We must have spent a good couple of hours at the grill, I had a glass of port while she lingered over a bowl of fresh strawberries that our itchy waiter kept trying to snatch away. Time flew and soon it was time to break out. As we walked through the homeless jungle, I kept trying to switch sides to insulate her from various mumbling miscreants without seeming too obvious about it. Finally the weather was just about right for the Eddie Bauer turtleneck I was sporting, and the fresh air was getting crisper. Just right to clear the webs and alcohol.
I met Ambra Nykol! I feel so cool now, and yes she is that smart and does look that good.
In one day I get two emails. This one..
Byron Allen isn't all business.
The media mogul — who is aggressively trying to purchase West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Paxson Communications Corp., a group of about 60 broadcast TV stations, for $2.2 billion — took the time this summer to do something for his mom: He bought her a gated $5-million house in the Hollywood Hills.
The former comedian, 44, purchased the four-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot home so his mother, Carolyn Folks, could live closer to him. Folks had been living in Allen's Century City condo since he bought a $3.8-million Hollywood Hills house for himself in February 2004.
And this one..
Original Poetry and Theater of Oppression Saturday, August 20, 2 p.m. at Southern California Library
Young people from South Los Angeles will present original poetry and theater at a special event on Saturday, August 6. The event is the culmination of poetry and Theater of Oppression workshops where youth developed and shared creative work about what it is like to grow up in South L.A. in their own voices. The event will take place at the Southern California Library, 6120 S. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, at 2 p.m. Admission is free and refreshments will be offered. All are welcome. For more information, call 323-759-6063 or check the web at www.socallib.org.
I wonder how this integration thing is going to work out...
Now that my entire family is out of town and the house is clean and quiet, I am at liberty. But since I've got the the need to blog, I may as well make my phonecalls redundant by chronicling my inane activities.
All morning I've been shooting cops in the head because they have the nerve to interrupt my mindless criminal activity. For 90 days in Los Santos, I've known where to find grenades. Today, finally I've gone buck wild. Nobody was safe, not civilians, not fellow bangers, not firetrucks putting out the first of the exploding cars. I played for 6 hours and now my thumb hurts.
This afternoon, I'm heading downtown to MOCA and then to a chamber orchestra concert. Mladi is performing. It should be good to be downtown in the evening. I'm anxious to see glitter. Blog at 11.
Several months ago, a friend of mine passed on some information about whether or not there was a conspiracy afoot in Pasadena. It had to do with some apparent gentrification of a hitherto mostly black neighborhood somewhere on the westside of Pasadena, north of Orange Grove.
Apparently, real estate agents were driving white families as prospective homeowners, through this hood, much to the consternation of a few of the local residents. The letter went a little something like this:
...there is a "project" under way to buy out all the homes of black residents in Pasadena so that the whites can move there. He said that there is a white van with tinted windows that goes around the neighborhood regularly. It is filled with white people who are shopping for homes. I asked my brother what kind of price they are offering the residents, and he said market price. I don't know the details, but apparently they tell them that they are going to be developing the neighborhood, building new buildings, and this is how they can get away with doing this.
My final response went a little something like this:
What I do know are two things that may be relevant, having lived in the area myself.
#1. There is a brand new shopping center with a new supermarket and several new stores that is located on the corner of Orange Grove and Fair Oaks. I know that is the newest and nicest development in the part of Pasadena where a lot of working class people live. I also know that it was developed by a black man named Danny Bakewell who is the head of an old political organization called the Brotherhood Crusade. So if anybody knows what's going on with respect to blacks and real estate in Pasadena, it's Bakewell. So as a first test, I would see if your folks are aware of Bakewell, who he is and what he's done.
Bakewell is not above any stunt that embarasses whitefolks and yet he is not to be trifled with. He cut his teeth in the 70s by organizing a campaign that involved rented trucks and he practically shut down the Rose Parade in protest over whites in Pasadena not letting blacks buy property.
#2. There are so many black people in Pasadena and Altadena that there is no way that they are going to be dislocated to any signficant degree. The funny thing is, that I just went to church today in Pasadena - First AME on Penn & Raymond. Right on the plaque on the cornerstone, they have the date inscribed of when they paid off their debts. Blackfolks have been owning property in Pasadena and Altadena for a long time.
Pasadena has a lot of old properties that could be restored and sold for higher profits. And every day at the hardware store on Fair Oaks just north of the 210, there are Mexican day laborers hanging out looking for carpentry jobs and whatnot. And when I went to that lumber yard across the street and the hardwared store, there were no shortage of blackfolks. So I know that it's not particularly difficult for blacks to be into home improvement, and I know it pays well in Pasadena.
So I'd be interested to know where the new buildings are supposedly going up, because if you look at the houses around Raymond Avenue, they're all classic bungalows just waiting to be restored, and if gentrification is what's going on, Pasadena isn't about to sell its own history. That's the whole draw of the place.
There are lots of new condos on Walnut that have been built in the past few years, but if that was a black neighborhood it's news to me. There's also a huge new development in Altadena north of Loma Alta Park. That's been in development since '97 and my money says it's the biggest residential development in the area. That's not coming out of old black homes, that's new stuff dug out of the hillside.
I want to hear about cross streets, because I hardly believe this is a big deal. Now that I think of it, I think I've heard something of this conspiracy theory before, but I'm not sure. All anybody has to do is start a homeowner's association...
LA Observed has news that Bakewell is retiring from the Brotherhood Crusade, an organization for which I have volunteered some time back in my youth. It occurs to me that he must be one of the most powerful African Americans in Southern California.
In the context of black property ownership and other factors contributing to dismal pictures like this I do wonder what it is that goes through the heads of cats like Bakewell. I noticed last weekend that the old Great Western Savings building on Crenshaw and Angeles Vista is now called the Bakewell Building. I wonder if he's got retirement up his sleeve or focusing on a new level.
Beginning today, I don't want to hear another word about the 'checkered past' of the Republican Party. I'm so sick to death of the excuse-making and whinging and fear and distrust. I'm fed up with the conspiracy theories and demonization. I've had it up to here with the empty threats and loudmouth posturing.
Any African American who lives in fear of the Republican Party needs to seriously check themselves and determine if they are living under the proper rule of law, because the door of exodus is open. Put Marley on the box and roll to Expedia.com. See, now I'm breathing quickly. I'm not trying to stifle debate or expression, I've just run out of patience with the defensiveness and the excruciating lengths to which people will go to 'prove' that Republican interests are inimical to black progress.
The Republican Party's checkered past is *spit* compared to the checkered past of Mississippi and Alabama. I don't want to hear another word about the Republican's chekered past until you can convince every black person in Mississippi and Alabama to leave. Republicans aren't the problem. The problem is Alabama.
Am I picking on Alabama? No because I think that folks in Alabama are quite happy to be in Alabama, and those that aren't hop on the bus and leave. As of the 2000 Census there were still 1,158,925 souls of African American (self-reported) decent there. It seems to me that should be an adequate number of people to save from the soul-crushing racial hostility of Alabama. Please direct further insults to the GOP to those remaining in Alabaman captivity. By any objective measure, they need your help more than the rest of us.
But then, that would be reality-based action wouldn't it?
"All you are ever told in this country about being black is that it is a terrible, terrible thing to be. Now, in order to survive this, you have to really dig down into yourself and re-create yourself, really, according to no image which yet exists in America. You have to impose, in fact - this may sound very strange - you have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you."
Somebody called the 'Dismal Scientist' (certainly not the first) writes below my cartoon:
As a so-called "Negro" myself, I must say that I find you almost compelling as a blogger. Surely, you believe in "Good" and "Evil"--and therein lies the problem. You would be absolutely compelling if you abandoned "positions". You see, this world is all there is. It is neither Good or Evil, Left or Right--Democrat or Republican.
The world is simply what it is. Now, we men have the prerogrative to impose an interpretation on it--think of those who actually believe God exiss--and some stories are indeed more compelling than others.
Hang in there my Negro Blogger---I am pulling for you.
My immediate reaction is this:
I am compelled, like Celie in 'The Color Purple', to increase my literacy and name the things I see with my own eyes. I don't make excuses for calling them as I see them, and of course I am not beyond having a little fun.
This blog has its mission and I hope will stand as some sort of a testament to this short period in American History. Sooner or later, people are going to look at America of 2005 and say 'good' or 'evil'. Well that's just hindsight and half memory. I'm here. I'm now. I'm watching and I'm naming.
Nobody gets the privilege of putting words in my mouth retrospectively. Nobody gets to say what 'Negroes' of the blogosphere were doing way back in 2005 without checking in here. Nobody gets to say 'black people were on the ass-end of the digital divide througout history'. I was emailing in 1984 at Xerox back in the days they made millions selling typewriters. I was at the Well, Cafe Utne, the Drum and everywhere else, and I was not quiet in the corner.
I'm going to continue being a loudmouth in various ways because I'm a writer - perception and articulation. That's what my writing life is all about, from this black man's perspective. All of which is to say is that I have a position in this world and I dictate what that position is. I don't care who believes I have a right to or not. If I say I'm Right and Republican, that's what I am. If I say I am humble and human, then I'm that too.
The voice persists. Deal with it.
But that is a writer's answer and it is not the only answer I have. Out of the blue as I posted the quote, keeping in very clear focus the writer's goodwill towards me, it occurred to me that the writer might very well be Roland Fryer. It's just a hunch and a wild guess based on the interview I saw a few weeks back with the head Freakonomist on the Charlie Rose show. And you know what? I agree. From an economic point of view, there is no good or evil, democrat or republican. People vote with their choices every day. And it is only when you are completely clear about that, that you can see what people do without bias.
I acknowledge the reality of the world and people's choices. I am not in the business of political struggle as a moralist, rather as someone exercising my choice to be a willing and thoughtful participant in the mediating forces of democracy. I like being a citizen in a country under civilian rule. I am not doing the Lucifer Jones thing here - I am assessing and abetting the opportunity for the expansion of African American political power and responsibility in the best tradition of the Black Nationalist movement. (Although now that I think about it, it's probably fair to say that Thabo Mbeki has been something of a disappointment.)
Whether or not my mystery friend is Fryer, I think I understand the import of his point. It is my full intent to be reality based. I am not seeing things as I wish they were. And I hope that anyone with the patience would set me straight when I contradict myself in that or any regard. Nobody has time for hypocrites or mice.
I have been working my butt off for the past three weeks. There doesn't seem to be an end in sight, but finally I'm getting to the point where it looks like there can be some payoff.
As I write this, I'm in some mall town called Federal Way in the glorious state of Washington. Off in the distance is Mount Rainier looking like something out of a picture of paradise. It's an astoundingly massive mountain standing alone. It locks onto your eyeballs like a campfire. You just can't help but stare at it. It gives you a sense of, if I wasn't so sophisticated I could see myself worshiping it.
By some freakishness explained better by geographers it doesn't get dark around here until 9pm. The weather has been perfect. Everybody says that this is the best time of year to be in and around Seattle. The Blue Angels are coming to town and this weekend are the hydroplane races. With any luck, I'll be hooking up with TCB mate Ambra Nykol. I've been eating on expense money, shrimp, steak, oysters, margaritas and more shrimp. It's almost relaxing and refreshing. But I'm still not out of hell yet.
We're competing with Microsoft for a massive contract at this rather large aircraft manufacturing company which shall remain nameless. The pressure is relentless, and as alpha geek, I can't afford to lose my touch - even though I did this morning, big time. It was one of those days when the smallest change throws everything into chaos. We've regrouped of course and are back on track, but today at lunch I wanted to flush myself down the toilet.
It turns out, fortunately, that some of the new technology we have is astonishingly fast. Although I haven't had much occasion to use it, I engineered a database with it this evening that turned a 15 minute chore into a 7 second blink of the eye. I don't quite understand the technology, but am satisfied that it's magic. I kinda like to leave the mystery.
Last night I fell asleep with the television on. So I dreamt that I was a fitness instructor and people around me kept saying how many pounds they lost with my amazing new method. I fell asleep face up and so I woke up this morning with a twisted ankle. The sheets at the bottom of the bed wouldn't budge and my foot was heeled over at a bizarre angle. I limped into the shower at 5:30am and found out how cold the water gets. Very. But it still didn't wake me up.
Nothing wakes me up these days except for anxiety. I keep thinking about how I might have solved that technical problem that I still haven't fixed. Why don't those JDBC drivers work? Which instance of Tomcat is actually running on my PC? How am I going to load those rate tables? I know I'm sleepy but I can't go back to bed. It's morning, and a dozen bored engineers have to listen to me demonstrate.
I didn't expect to demonstrate. I expected to walk people through a build. But they've got people on Webex and I've got to narrate to an agenda. I hereby create a new acronym: 'IGTOFTS'. I'm getting too old for this shit. But it pays well. Not well enough for me to raise and house three kids in Southern California, but objectively well. I don't want to live in Seattle - not right now I don't think, but I considered it once.
I think the people up here look like small town people. That's the downside of putting away the stress. It's really not necessary for me to get that BMW 540 I'm pricing out, but it's what I ought to have in Los Angeles. Up here, it would be extravagant. Up here, I'm too good looking. I'd get too bored. At the mall food court, a kid was wearing a T-shirt that said "I make the rules because I have the dick." I kid you not. I don't mean to be uncharitable; there is surely good living up here. But part of the point of Tacoma is that it's Tacoma. The skyline is beautiful but not intimidating. I was raised to live in cities with intimidating skylines.
No matter how many extraordinary systems I architect in my current job, the sales guys will make more money than me. They all expect to retire in 10 years. I'm not a proprietor any longer. I work hard, but not as smart as I used to. But it satisfies my inner geek. I don't have to speak up and be sparkly, I don't have to arrange the meetings. I can be crabby and not worry about all the angles.
The spousal unit and the rest of the family have taken off to their vacation destination. When I go home Friday night, it will be me in my nice quiet house. I'm going to sleep 'til noon like Yogi Bear. I'm going to have beer for breakfast and play Green Day at -2dB. Then I'll start blogging up a storm and maybe do some work on XRepublic. It will be a nice relaxing weekend. Then I'll return here and finish up.
Apparently, John Bolton is 'qualified'.
I like the theory explained somewhere I forgot to link last week, that the Republicans will do all that is necessary to win, but not one iota more. I'm starting to adhere to this idea - and it explains George W. Bush's political capital very well. Bush is the 51% president, and all he cares about, via Rove, is getting to the magic of majority. So Bolton's recess appointment as Ambassador to the UN comes as no surprise.
Keep this in mind. It is better to be deemed satisfactory by the powers that be, than to be hailed as outstanding by the coalition of the damned. Tsk.
As I read this longish entry over at Neo-Neocon, I saw a few glimmers of self-recognition. All of our stories are different, of course, but if there is a generic coming to the light story, this example is a good one.
The interesting thing is that I notice that political transformations of this sort are egged on in jumps and starts by harsh confrontation with new realities that don't fit. Those of us who like to consider ourselves up on issues find these jagged little reality pills hard to swallow. They hurt going down and it's always intensely personal. And since most of us don't have actually anything to do with the business of reportage and wonkery it tends to be more of an existential battle with ourselves and our friends than anything else.
Now that we can self-publish and link up beyond the small circles of our old lives' travels, not only new clarity about the world but of ourselves is possible.
Kali Tai told me in a very studied way that blackfolks have developed a knack of being something else than what we are doing. We have adapted to contingent existentials, we can move quickly in out of modes of communications. Cyberspace suits us well in this regard. The expression of code-switching. So as I consider the existentials of 'being' conservative and all that (in anticipation of questions I expect to field during my upcoming seminars), I wonder if there is something more to it for blackfolks than others.
I leave it to idle speculation, with one thing in mind which is that stinging argument hurled at African Americans: self-segregation.